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散文佳作108篇 第65期:Canadian Eskimo Lithographs 加拿大爱斯基摩人的石版画




Canadian Eskimo Lithographs


Hela Goetz


Since the Eskimos of Cape Dorset began making prints in 1959, their graphics have continuedto delight art lovers around the world. Interest has spread, not only in the south but to Arcticcommunities as well. Currently,four other Eskimo settlements are producing prints.


Cape Dorset is probably the best known of the printmaking communities. For a dozen years,prints of consistently high quality have been produced; successful experiments with stencils,etchings and engravings have addedvariety and interest; individual artists are receivingrecognition and acclaim. As modern technology encroaches upon these formerly isolatedpeople, the prints have become a record of an earlier life style.


When one considers the limited means available to these artists, both in obtaining materialsand being exposed to print-making techniques, their success is indeed phenomenal. Graphicimages had been made by Eskimo artists prior to the advent of printmaking in the Arctic,usually in the form of incised figures and designs on ivory carvings, but the idea of reproducingan image many times on paper was totally new. James Houston, then Northern AffairsAdministrator at Cape Dorset, and himself an artist, guided the Eskimo artists in their firstexperiment, and gradually a cooperative print shop was established.


Carving of the image on to a flat stone block was a natural step for artists accustomed toproducing stone carvings; drawing the images to be repro-duced was more radical. Many ofthe women, who were far ouf flumbered as carvers by the men, took readily to the newmedium, and soon drawingsfor possible translation into prints became a major artistic activity.People began to take a great interest in recording everyday activities on paper, realisticallyreproducing the animals and birds which were the objects of the hunt and played such a centralrole in their existence, and drawing images of the spirits and strange creatures which peopledtheir mythology. Economic aspects played an important part, too, in the development of thisnew medium of artistic expression. For a people entering a new phase of civilization, it becamean absolute necessity to replace the older hunting economy with a new form of subsistence.The sale of carvings had, for thepast ten years, been an increasing source of income; thedevelopment of print-making techniques promised another means to survive economically.


The possibility of recording the old ways of life and the world of the spirits appealed especiallyto the older generation.


The recurring theme of monsters and spirits is not entirely the choice of theartiststhemselves. They have been encouraged to draw the old ways andto let their imagination runfree in conjuring up spirits, as these subjects areintensely interesting to southerners. Still, theidea of these fantastic crea-tures is a very real part of the Eskimo's spiritual heritage, andthey are asmuch a part of the old ways as was the nomadic existence in igloos andsHn tents.


Strange species of birds are another favourite subject of the Cape Dorsetartists.


One of the marvellous things about carving and print maHng activities inthe Arctic is the numberof artists who take part-from young children tothe very old.


The old ways are all but gone, but the community spirit remains, support-ing new ideas andwelcoming new art forms without forgetting the heritageof the past.


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